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Chelsea linked anew with Lille Technical Director as overdue Emenalo replacement

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The former AS Monaco maestro is still a candidate for Emenalo’s old job

Luis Campos of AS Monaco during First Training Session of Monaco at La Turbie on June 25, 2016 in Monaco, Monaco
Photo by Agence Nice Presse/Icon Sport via Getty Images

On November 6th Chelsea announced that technical director Michael Emenalo was leaving the club immediately. His choice, not Roman’s, who tried to keep him.

Within a week, Lille OSC technical director Luis Campos, a man with an illustrious curriculum vitae, was linked as a possible favorite to replace him.

Since then, the trail had gone cold. In the interim Chelsea hired a new CEO, Guy Laurence, to run the club’s day-to-day business and expand commercial revenues.

Guy Laurence (CEO of Vodafone) — and others who are cropped out — pose for a photograph on the first official day of London Fashion Week at Somerset House on February 17, 2012 in London, England. Vodafone UK is the principal sponsor of London Fashion Week.
Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images for Vodafone

With the club’s leadership heavy on business acumen and apparently short on football knowledge, the trail heated up again on Wednesday. Fresh spoor has been detected, according to the Independent. Specifically, the paper claims that Luis Campos’ agent was spotted in London last month, supposedly meeting with Chelsea brass.

Campos is the man credited with assembling the glittering array of (relatively inexpensive) AS Monaco players who captured Ligue 1 last season and got everyone’s attention with a run to the Champions League semi-finals. While Monaco’s success has since been reclassified as a bit of a one-off romantic and naive effort, Campos’s stock remains high.

Or at least it did.

Last summer, after taking a backseat at Monaco the previous season, Campos was lured to Lille (leaving Marseille at the altar) by new owner and venture capitalist Gerard Lopez. Also recruited were former Barcelona vice-chairman Marc Ingla and combustible head coach Marcelo Bielsa. Lille were going to become a project. So excited were they that branded themselves “LOSC Unlimited.”

Pride comes before the fall, as they say.

Atalanta BC v LOSC Lille - Pre-Season Friendly Photo by Emilio Andreoli/Getty Images

LOSC Unlimited has imploded. Bielsa quit. The players aren’t performing. The club is mired in second-to-last place in the table, 47 points off the lead and very much in a relegation battle.

Campos is in the middle of it, according to reports.

22 players left, 17 have come in. Lille’s standout new acquisition is Thiago Mendes, but it’s not clear whether Bielsa or Campos wanted him. What is clear is that Bielsa quit because he felt shut-out from the decision-making process — essentially, that Campos had usurped all of his authority on transfer matters.

Lille’s squad is loaded with young players who will take time to reach their peak. While the wholesale roster changes might have been inadvisable and unsettling, it’s too early to say that Campos has lost his eye for talent.

If Campos’ connection to Chelsea turns out to be true — and we now have two reports to that effect — what does seem relevant is the conflict between the head coach and management.

It’s not a situation that’s unfamiliar to Chelsea. It was a major factor in Jose Mourinho’s first departure from the club. It’s been an open wound with Antonio Conte since last summer, just as it was for the likes of Carlo Ancelotti, Claudio Ranieri, and even Roberto Di Matteo. Arguably, the tension has been a factor in Chelsea winning only four games out of fifteen since the start of the year.

“May you live in interesting times.”

More a curse than a blessing, this saying. If Luis Campos comes in as Technical Director, things could get very interesting indeed, regardless of who might be the head coach.